Thursday, April 29, 2021

Sepuloni "useless"

Peter Williams described the Minister of Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni as "useless" on his Magic Talk programme this morning. Specifically, because she had no idea how much MSD had given to moteliers etc for damage caused by "MSD clients".

Is she useless, or something worse?

Since 2017 Sepuloni has driven a culture change at Work and Income. On the surface, treating clients with respect and care (if they weren't already) is laudable and hard to argue with. WINZ offices are brighter, security staff are less visible, there are water dispensers and play areas for children. Away from the coalface, thousands of clients are rung to ensure they are receiving their full and correct entitlements.

This is the policy of kindness in action.

Long-established rules are dispensed with or overlooked. COVID was a great enabler in advancing this change of approach. The Greens, whose MSD spokesperson used to be a beneficiary advocate, should be pleased (though they never are). The Green Party wants benefits to be completely unconditional and open-ended. Last term Labour needed the Greens, and it shows.

The use of sanctions to enforce obligations has fallen away. Benefit reviews have been abandoned. Medical certificates too. Grants for all types of emergency assistance have sky-rocketed; denied applications have plummeted. 

Expectations have been established not just by visibly changing how WINZ looks and operates. But by more insidious messaging.

The promotion of victimhood through claims that structural racism abounds, and colonisation is to blame for every ill imaginable, used to be the territory of extremists. Now it is routinely promulgated by academia and other authorities. If not Maori, there are other excuses for disaffection provided by mainstream Marxism.

People on benefits have every right to feel resentful and aggrieved. So much so that bad behaviour is understandable. It’s just a form of protest bound to become more prolific.

But some (often blameless beneficiaries) who live in or near emergency housing feel very unsafe. The protestors doubtless sleep all day and come out at night to wreak havoc; do drugs, do violence and do damage. These aren’t working people who have to get a decent night’s sleep.

They are anti-social miscreants who arc between apathy and aggression and wear their alienation as a badge of honour.

Instead of a system that refuses to tolerate their destructiveness, we get a system which rewards them with no-strings-attached cash and plenty of excuses for their defection from the rest of society.

Nobody has explained to them that the social security system was born out of shared values, shared compassion for genuine need, and shared commitment to fund it.

Certainly Sepuloni hasn’t bothered. And it is highly unlikely that the new compulsory history curriculum will cover what Mickey Savage envisaged when he created it over eighty years ago.

Green associate housing Minister Marama Davidson is appalled. The situation is unacceptable she says. Yet this is a leading proponent of an anything-goes benefit regime. Is she really surprised at what such a mushy modus operandi results in?

A much harder line must be taken with offenders. They will be breaking multiple laws and for the sake of those in closest proximity – those in genuine, unavoidable need – the very least that should happen is a threat to immediately end their benefit entitlement. Whatever ensues, we have a police force to deal with.

Someone needs to get – and someone needs to give – the correct message: you can’t keep biting the hand that feeds you.

Don’t hold your breath for that someone to be the person in charge though.

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